|Gilian Kenny: Bins, oil and acrylic silkscreen on steel, 15.5 x 22 cm; courtesy the artist|
The realistic nature of photography has unfortunately led the medium to be associated with pragmatic truth, where each supposedly functions as a given of the other. Gillian Kenny chips away at this long-standing paradox within a series of fifteen pieces that use the silk-screen process to render a different photographic image upon each unframed, steel surface. Suspending her work between perception and depiction, Kenny then scratches or applies paint over these representations, so as to transform the objective to subjective. In the end, these pieces play with machinations of personal memory.
The subjects of Kenny’s work are found objects that are discovered within the frame of daily experience. Using throw-away detritus as her muse, these pieces attempt to construct a sense of recollection. Found mattress I (2003), for example, portrays a mattress that has been discarded in an empty lot. However, Kenny’s application of acrylic accents obscures the exact place of this object, highlighting the item itself outside of any specific context. Quite similarly, Up the hoods (2004) depicts the exterior of an urban slum, yet the artist’s manipulation of contour seeks to obscure the exact socio-economic level of this building.
|Gilian Kenny: Mattress, oil and acrylic silkscreen on steel, 22 x 15.5 cm; courtesy the artist|
Kenny’s technique flushes out details, leaving specifics like time and place entirely unfixed. Furthermore, the combination of acrylic and oil upon a steel surface lends duration to these works. As a result, Kenny gives materiality to the passing moment and transforms the common point-of-view into her own subjective memory. By subverting the idea of the photograph as trace with the act of tracing upon the faintly represented picture, the artist successfully personalizes a medium that is often found to be empty of meaning.
Jill Conner is an art critic based in New York City.